iPad only — a Self-experiment

Spoiler alert: I am writing these lines with a pencil on my iPad, scribbling and/or typing on the onscreen keyboard. When I use a german word it is translated on the fly not leaving my editor or installing something.

I have been using all kinds of computers since four decades starting with almost home-made ones in the 80s. They all had one in common: using a keyboard for input (even using a mouse was possible only some years later). So I learned touch-typing and I am glad I did this until now.

The first iPad in 2010 was revolutionary: my wife got one and I was stunned: how could almost everything be made so easy, so simple and best of all – so intuitive just using your fingers? Think of zooming in…

Nevertheless already owning my first (small) MacBook I was sure many of the things I needed to do would just not be possible on an iPad. Or tedious. Or cumbersome. Or both.

Now, using an iPad more and more many of my beliefs begin to falter. The set in the title image – an iPad 8 with pencil and keyboard – can be used like a laptop: it has a full localized keyboard (one of the options schools in Austria can select for their students according to the “8-Point Plan for Digital Learning“; see below why this is a good choice).

This is true also because of iCloud: it is so simple to switch devices when working — even your phone can be used for a quick fix or to look up some information.

Why should I use (only) an iPad?

Steve Jobs presentation of the first iPad is legend: showing the two devices already present at this time, an iPhone and a laptop he was asking again and again: IS there something possible in between, some device BETTER than a iPhone AND better than a laptop? If not it has no right to exist. His use cases presented afterwards hold until now.

Steve Jobs introducing the first iPad in 2010

He spoke about using an iPad being ”intimate, intuitive and fun”. Some other aspects have developed to be important too:

  • When meeting other people using an iPad makes communicating easy and natural.
  • iPads are lighter than most laptops, they are more sturdy.
  • A longer battery life – usually a whole day – is very nice.
  • No noise as no fans are there.
  • All of this make iPads perfect for schools and universities.

A very impressive project began in Bremen, a city with about half a million residents, in 2020/21: the decision for a unified digital solution for all children in all educational areas was made in favour of ipads — all 8.000 teachers got one, in total 100.000 devices have been delivered. The reasons for this decision:

  • Simplicity, ease of use
  • Barrier-free accessibility
  • Administibility: a mobile device management solution
  • Safety of iOS
  • Estimation of total and follow-up costs

The items shown in the presentation could cause a misunderstanding present until today: iPads are for consuming content and not suitable for production. This is not true, never was, todays applications cover almost any field of computing. Think of AutoCAD on iPad! Or Microsoft Office 365, with just some advanced features not available in the iOS version. The opposite is true: there are many classes of applications using pencils or cameras which are usually not possible with traditional laptops.

One argument repeatedly heard is that iOS has no good way of handling multiple windows or there was no genuine multitasking. This is not true especially since iOS 15, simplifying multitasking significantly. It is very easy to get two windows side by side which I use many times: drag and drop between these two works like a charm, I seldomly need more.

There are apps which can be thought to exist only on a tablet: drawing apps for example. But there are other apps too, perhaps changing the game altogether — for me there are some extensions in iOS 15 with this potential: screenshots with annotations using your pencil and quick notes with live text and scribble, both producing searchable text. A perfect system for gathering and managing all kinds of information sources.

What for do I need a laptop anyway?

  • Much typing on a full scale good keyboard – could be added via bluetooth.
  • When a Bigger screen size is needed.
  • Very special tasks, when no iPad app is available. But even my terminal sessions when working on my remote linux servers work perfectly here.

Conclusion

It’s easy: a laptop for some tasks, maybe special or maybe when you need a big screen.

Oh wait: what size should I choose for my iPad? 13” really? Less is more if you are on the go, the 11” is perfect to carry. This is the only question unsolved.

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